Memories of Experiencing ChuckStrong – 2012 NFL-ballooza

Even though the team I was rooting for lost, to this day I am still glad I was there. It was the start of one of the best stories of the 2012 NFL season, and an instance where the country was able to see again the football is more than a game as it pulled a community together. The day I’m referring to is when the Indianapolis Colts beat the Green Bay Packers, and ChuckStrong became a part of the NFL lexicon.

The game took place a mere six days after news broke about Chuck Pagano’s diagnosis of a treatable form of leukemia. Hearts were heavy at Lucas Oil stadium, but most were optimistic about Pagano’s recovery. It was great to see players on both sides of the game respond by wearing #ChuckStrong t-shirts under their uniforms.

Despite the aura surrounding the game, early on it looked like a Packers rout would sour the mood in Indianapolis. The Packers were up 21-3 at halftime, and received the second half kickoff. That was, until, this happened.

The crowd, quiet since about midway through the second quarter, suddenly came to life. The Colts, facing a substantial deficit, started to believe this wasn’t over just yet. When Andrew Luck hit Dwayne Allen to cut the lead to 21-10, you could tell the entire tenor of the stadium and game had changed in an instant

From Reggie Wayne’s incredible one-handed grab, to Mason Crosby’s bizarre field goal miss as time expired, the Colts seemed destined to win the game and complete a storybook comeback. But they played as if destiny didn’t matter.  After that interception to start the half, the Colts were the better team. They played their hearts out, and won an important game for their coach, team, and city.

To me, that was the game that sparked the Colts unlikely run to 11 wins and a playoff berth one year removed from their disastrous 2-12 season. The best part was the Colts bookending that week 5 win over the Packers with a week 17 win over the Houston Texans… in Chuck Pagano’s first game back coaching the team.

Pagano’s battle and recovery not only helped ignite his young team to victory after victory, but it helped generate more awareness and fund-raising for the endless battle against cancer. To me, that was the story of the season, and one of the many examples of where football proves to be more than just a game.

By: Alex Gelhar

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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